QSRs and conversational AI
May 05, 2022
5 MIN READ

How Conversational AI Satisfies Customers’ Appetites at QSRs

QSRs and fast-casual restaurants are uniquely poised to offer customers exceptional service through conversational AI across a variety of devices, especially when accuracy and speed are at the forefront of expectations. Voice assistants are meeting the evolution of customer needs as aspects of technology—such as privacy and personalization—continue to influence what customers expect from their food ordering experience. 

Customers are no longer satisfied with the simple ordering process of a decade ago but are now wanting additional avenues, such as a mobile app or self-service kiosk option, and more information with stored preferences and nutritional information. Companies not wanting to lose customers because of inferior service will want to consider how conversational AI can help address customers’ evolving needs. 

The QSR industry is growing as much as consumers’ appetites. According to the National Restaurant Association, the foodservice industry is forecast to reach $898 billion in sales in 2022. As with most massive industries, with growth comes investment in new technologies, and voice assistants offer many benefits to QSRs that will generate revenue and increase brand affinity. 

Recently, two in-depth reports were published on the state of QSR priorities and customer demands—the 2022 Restaurant Technology Study by Hospitality Tech and 25 Consumer Trends Restaurants Will See in 2022 by QSR Magazine. We gathered statistics and insights from these reports to examine how conversational AI can surpass customers’ demands of their ordering experience and what is on the menu for QSRs’ investing in new technology.

QSRs invest in new technology and solutions

As QSRs and fast-casual restaurants evolve with customers’ needs, technology has been a critical component of customer service strategies, allowing for more orders, quicker service, and more accurate ordering. Restaurateurs are investing and implementing new solutions year-over-year. With conversational AI on the rise, voice assistants are fast becoming an integral part of the ordering experience. 

According to Hospitality Tech, 72% of restaurants report that their IT budget will increase in 2022, with 91% planning to adopt or have already adopted online ordering pickup (13% adding it for the first time) and 23% for in-car ordering (6% for the first time). Restaurateurs’ expansion into other methods of ordering, whether online, mobile, phone, or in-car, shows that solutions such as voice AI are meeting the needs of their customers, wherever they are. 

72% of restaurants report that their IT budget will increase in 2022.

Hospitality Tech

Hospitality Tech also revealed in their findings QSRs and fast-casual restaurants’ goals for their technology investments. 39% wanted to improve employee productivity and retention, 35% targeted reduced costs, 35% selected support revenue-generating opportunities, and 31% prioritized improving e-commerce. 

The addition of voice assistants in the ordering process allows employees to focus on meal prep and customer service that requires a human touch, improving employee productivity. Voice commerce and monetization opportunities are the future of voice assistants and will generate revenue for QSRs while enhancing e-commerce and creating value for customers. QSRs and fast-casual restaurants are experiencing a shift in technology, with investments and adoptions for solutions that surpass their customers’ needs. 

Customers demand new features for their QSR experience

Long gone are the days of waiting on hold, in slow lines, or having in-person ordering experiences be the only avenue for customers to get the delicious food they crave. Now, customers are demanding and finding value in additional features for their ordering. According to Hospitality Tech, 81% of customers demand the ability to pay via a mobile device, 78% want to preview the menu and nutritional information, and 69% want a mobile app.

81% of customers demand the ability to pay via a mobile device, 78% want to preview the menu and nutritional information, and 69% want a mobile app.

Hospitality Tech

The trend of mobile app ordering and payment has increased in recent years, and voice assistants are a natural extension of the in-app experience since the essential hardware—a microphone and speaker—are already built-in. Voice-enabled mobile apps have advanced filtering capabilities, able to sort through large catalogs of information, or menus, to find exactly what the customer is looking for. 

They also reduce typing and swiping, providing a simpler, faster, and more efficient experience by allowing customers to use just their voice to ask for what they want, even if they don’t know exactly what it is called or where it is on the menu. With a voice assistant, customers can ask for nutritional information as well, receiving details as if they were talking to an experienced and knowledgeable employee. 

These investments and adoptions of new solutions are paying off with customers noticing the improvement in service. The study by QSR magazine revealed that 58% of consumers considered mobile app ordering to be the most improved aspect of the fast-food experience since the start of Covid. Providing customers with the additional features and ordering methods that they demand will show a proactive response to feedback, fostering brand loyalty for returning customers and engaging new ones. 

Consumers expect accuracy and speed from drive-thrus

Another trend for restauranteurs is the increasing importance of a fast and accurate drive-thru experience. Customers on the go or those who are taking extra precautions around pandemic concerns want fast, accurate, and frictionless ordering experiences from their cars.

According to QSR Magazine, 89% of consumers said order accuracy was somewhat or most important to them in their drive-thru experience, with the speed of service next at 88%. The study also revealed that 35% of consumers were annoyed waiting to order at a drive-thru after 5 minutes and 22% after 2 minutes. Speed and accuracy are critical in the QSR industry, and without them, customers might grow frustrated with the brand or abandon it all together for a more competent competitor.

89% of consumers said order accuracy was somewhat or most important to them in their drive-thru experience, with the speed of service next at 88%.

QSR Magazine

Voice assistants at QSRs increase speed and order accuracy through excellent customer service and advanced capabilities. Even though people often use voice assistants for basic tasks, such as setting timers, playing music, or checking the weather, they are actually capable of much more, living up to the AI part of their name. They can record compound and complex orders and are context-aware, so customers don’t have to lose patience by repeating information. With drive-thrus increasing in popularity, it’s essential that restaurants meet their customers’ requirements for superior service. 

QSRs see the need for personalization and privacy grow

Customers are demanding more from their ordering experiences, including personalization, while still being concerned about privacy. These two elements can sometimes seem at odds with each other. Handled carefully and with transparency to the user both personalization and privacy can be achieved to deliver excellent service. According to QSR Magazine, 43% of consumers love the idea of having the ability to manage dietary preferences and share them with the restaurants they order from, and 37% love the idea of receiving preference suggestions based on their order history.

43% of consumers love the idea of having the ability to manage dietary preferences and share them with restaurants they order from, and 37% love the idea of receiving preference suggestions based on their order history.

QSR Magazine

Voice assistants are rapidly evolving with personalization at the forefront of the next step in the voice experience. For returning or loyal customers, voice-enabled kiosks, mobile apps, and phone ordering systems will be able to store dietary preferences and filter menu results based on nutritional information. They will also examine past order history and suggest a frequently ordered item or new options that are similar to the customers’ preferences. This level of personalization is engaging customers, creating an experience that is tailored to them with an extra level of convenience. 

Restaurants are also discovering the importance of privacy and data transparency with QSR Magazine revealing that 56% of consumers love being able to understand and control who has access to the data they share with restaurants. In the age of data hacks and personal information being sold to advertisers, consumers are especially wanting transparency about who is seeing their data.

56% of consumers love being able to understand and control who has access to the data they share with restaurants.

QSR Magazine

With a custom voice assistant, restaurant owners can have complete access and control over customers’ data and privacy settings, allowing them to opt-in or out of data collection based on their comfort level while actively communicating to their customers what the data is being used for, such as personalization capabilities that improve the experience. 

Many trends are emerging for the QSR and fast-casual restaurant space, with investments in new technology, customers demanding new features for their ordering experience, customers expecting accuracy and speed for drive-thrus, and the desire for personalization and privacy increasingly growing leading the forefront of evolutions. Restaurateurs wanting to stay ahead of customers’ needs and demands can look to conversational AI as a way to surpass their customers’ expectations. 

At SoundHound, we have all the tools and expertise needed to create custom voice assistants and a consistent brand voice. Explore SoundHound’s independent voice AI platform at SoundHound.com and register for a free account here. Want to learn more? Talk to us about how we can help bring your voice strategy to life.

Kristen Stephens, author SoundHound Inc.

Kristen is a content writer with a passion for storytelling and marketing. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking, reading, and spending time with her nieces and nephew.

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